Until the first week of October, it looked like Will Nash was heading to an easy victory in the Fayette County District 1 school board race. A former Teach for America teacher in Eastern Kentucky who now works in educational leadership, Nash has served in his appointed position with professionalism, pushing for transparency from Fayette administrators when it was needed, staying quiet when it was was not.
His challenger, Christy Morris, is a long-time school volunteer who started a non-profit to feed low-income children on weekends. Her platform, at least in her Herald-Leader interview, is heartfelt about working for teachers and students but vague in specifics. Although sincerely interested in education, she has never served on a school-based decision making council, or received Prichard Committee training, two important routes for parents who want to understand more about how our schools operate.
It seemed like a clear choice.
But then in the final weeks of the campaign, Nash made two grave and telling mistakes. First, he had requested from the school district all the personal contact information of every family in District 1, and proceeded to send them a text message about the election. Apparently, the information is available to the public, but under a mostly unknown school district procedure, Nash, as a school board member, should have requested the information directly from Superintendent Manny Caulk.
There are still questions that remain over the district’s handling of the open records request. However, Nash, who is not apparently as paranoid as most about private information being used inappropriately, still thought it would be a good idea for him to send texts to more than 11,000 parents asking for their vote.
But that’s not all. Nash also thought it would be savvy to send out a flyer that surveyed his constituents on various educational issues three weeks before the election. Politicians have done this before, but it is extremely disingenuous to pretend that this mailer was about people’s opinions and not just about getting Nash’s name in front of voters. Nash paid for it himself, but used the district’s non-profit postage rate because he said he was sending the mailer as a school board member and was entitled to that rate. He has since paid back the difference to the postal service.
Nash has apologized profusely for these mistakes, but we are concerned about how clearly his political ambition trumped his good sense. School board members are not supposed to be professional politicians; they are supposed to be advocates for children and their parents.
That’s why, in this instance, Christy Morris is the better choice for the school board. She is passionate about teachers, parents and children, not just at affluent schools like Rosa Parks Elementary, but the less privileged like James Lane Allen. She has worked to make sure children don’t go hungry on weekends and at holidays; she is rightly concerned about the potential advent of charter schools in Fayette County and about the effects of top-down mandates that over-emphasize testing at the expense of creative teaching.
We urge her to become better educated about school funding, school district operations and how school councils work, and to resist the conspiracy theories that abound about charter schools and other issues. It’s important that she also believe that others have the best interests of schools in mind, too, and not automatically see the administration as the enemy, an attitude that can derail important work the school board has to do. Morris has a steep learning curve ahead of her, but we believe she will represent the best interests of teachers, parents and children of District 1.
The unendorsed candidate can submit a response of up to 250 words before noon Wednesday.
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Why do we endorse?
The Herald-Leader believes the tradition of candidate endorsements enhances interest and participation in the civic process, whether readers agree with the newspaper’s recommendations or not. The paper has unusual access to candidates and their backgrounds, and considers part of its responsibility to help citizens sort through campaign issues and rhetoric.
An endorsement represents the consensus of the editorial board. The decisions have no connection to the news coverage of political races and is wholly separate from journalists who cover those races. This fall, we will also be posting video excerpts from the candidates’ interviews with the editorial board.
We will endorse in key state and local races. Unendorsed candidates can respond with 250-word letters that will be published as soon as possible.